Monday, April 30, 2012
The world is apparently divided...
... into two kinds of people; those who let their dogs lick off the dinner plates, and those who are so repulsed by the very idea of dogs licking dinner plates that they will never again eat in your home.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Not new... but new to me
It seems that some time ago, British film director Sir Ridley Scott launched a global film-making contest for aspiring directors. It's titled "Tell It Your Way," and there were over 600 entries.
The film had to be no longer than three minutes, contain only six lines of narrative, and be a compelling story. The winner was "Porcelain Unicorn" from American director Keegan Wilcox.
Click here to watch it.
Trust me... this is three minutes you won't miss.
Hat tip: Shuby
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I wish I could say I was not in the mood to write. But that isn't true... I've had tons of stuff just waiting to fall out of my head.
The problem is that I've been distracted. Seriously distracted.
You see, right this very minute... as you read these words, 50 scooterists are charging across America from Savannah Georgia to San DIego California on what is known as the Scooter Cannonball Run. Cannonball is a stage race that is run every two years from coast to coast (with a different route each time)... on scooters.
Some of the participants are riding for fun... well, that's not true, they're ALL riding for fun... but some are also riding to raise money for a worthy charity.
Can you see where this post is heading?
I've gotten to know about a quarter of the men and women who are riding on the current Cannonball, and have been following along via the miracle of the Internet as they ride each day's segment.
Over the past few weeks as I watched my friends making preparations for the 2012 cannonball, I had pretty much made my peace with the fact that I'd never be able to participate. You see, it is an eight day event with one stage obviously falling on Shabbat.
Oh well, right?
It turns out that it is not uncommon for someone to miss part or all of a day of the Cannonball due to mechanical problems... and then rejoin the ride the following morning at the day's starting point.
Obviously, the chances of winning pretty much go out the window if you are missing out on a whole day's point distribution (although, if enough people have problems, it isn't necessarily the kiss of death for a good finishing score).
But I would never enter such an event with designs on winning. Finishing would be enough!
Over the next few months I'm going to have to think seriously if this is feasible.
I'll need my wife and family to be okay with my being away for a bit over a week. And I'd obviously need to do some serious fundraising with private and corporate sponsors to defray costs, and raise money for a worthy cause.
But as I watch this year's Cannonball unfold... I can't help but wonder if I'll be in the 2014 line-up.
So yeah... I've been a tad distracted. :-)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Has science really come to this? Opinion polls?!
Gobsmacked would be a good word to describe how I felt while reading one of the lead articles in the New York Times this morning.
Here, I'm in a sharing mood:
"In Poll, Many Link Weather Extremes to Climate Change
By JUSTIN GILLIS
"A poll due for release on Wednesday shows that a large majority of Americans believe that this year’s unusually warm winter, last year’s blistering summer and some other weather disasters were probably made worse by global warming. And by a 2-to-1 margin, the public says the weather has been getting worse, rather than better, in recent years.
The survey, the most detailed to date on the public response to weather extremes, comes atop other polling showing a recent uptick in concern about climate change. Read together, the polls suggest that direct experience of erratic weather may be convincing some people that the problem is no longer just a vague and distant threat.
“Most people in the country are looking at everything that’s happened; it just seems to be one disaster after another after another,” said Anthony A. Leiserowitz of Yale University, one of the researchers who commissioned the new poll. “People are starting to connect the dots."
A large majority of climate scientists say the climate is shifting in ways that could cause serious impacts, and they cite the human release of greenhouse gases as a principal cause. But a tiny, vocal minority of researchers contests that view, and has seemed in the last few years to be winning the battle of public opinion despite slim scientific evidence for their position.
The poll suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,” 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed." [emphasis mine]
Oh, there's more where that came from. Lots more.
The Times is basically saying, 'In the past, a majority of (apparently nutty) people denied global warming based on feelings, non-scientific observations, rumors and opinions, etc., while ignoring scientific evidence supporting it... but now a majority of sensible people believe in global warming without any connection to scientific evidence (i.e. based on feelings, non-scientific observations, rumors and opinions, etc.), so things are shaping up.
When did opinion polls become relevant to scientific discovery and/or discourse?
It would be one thing if the Times was framing the poll results in terms of how new scientific evidence supporting global warming was shaping people's opinions. But they aren't (and it isn't). They are saying quite clearly that people are making up their minds based on what is going on outside their windows and not what the scientists with the big picture are saying... exactly as the global warming deniers had.
The Times is framing the discussion of global warming in the same way it might a discussion of gun control, abortion or same sex marriage... as if opinions mattered to the eventual outcome.
I honestly don't care where you stand on global warming, and my own opinion doesn't matter one bit. The question that needs asking here is whether science has really come to this?
Opinion polls?! Really???!!!
Sunday, April 15, 2012
As if you needed a new reason to loathe the TSA
Created by: OnlineCriminalJusticeDegree.com
Friday, April 06, 2012
If you celebrate Passover, chances are you have a few traditions. You know, things we see, hear and do every year for the holiday to remind ourselves of our journey from slavery to freedom.
But since moving here, I've noticed that some people have traditions that remind them of more recent events; events from which they will never be entirely free.
Our next door neighbors lost their son while he was serving in the Israeli army nearly 20 years ago. He was killed before any of my children were even born.
Yet every year in the hours before they sit down to the Passover Seder with their remaining children and extended family, current and past members of their son's elite infantry unit come to visit them and comfort them before this most family oriented of Jewish holidays.
Formerly young men who served with my neighbors' son come with their families to say hello. And late in the afternoon a senior officer always comes to their door bearing a holiday gift basket... and the thanks of a grateful nation.
Tonight we have a tradition of seeing ourselves as if we were personally brought out of slavery. But for some it is not such a stretch of the imagination.
Wednesday, April 04, 2012
I really hope I'm mistaken
Many years ago I was on my way home from a wedding late one evening when I stopped off at a roadside rest stop to refuel and pick up a cup of coffee.
Inside, the rest stop was deserted except for the cashier and three tattooed young men with closely shaved heads and black t-shirts, who were waiting to pay for the junk food they'd picked out.
One of them saw me standing behind them in line wearing a tux and with a kippah (yarmulke) on my head, turned around to face me and with a big smile on his face said, "Hey... like my shirt?"
The black shirts they were all wearing looked very much like this:
At the time I didn't understand the significance of the numbers, but the shape of the 'S' made it obvious that it was meant to be a Nazi reference of some sort since the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) emblem looked like this:
Besides feeling tired and outnumbered, the brazen way in which the guy was smiling at me while showing off his shirt gave me a terrible feeling of vulnerability that I had only read about in history books.
I put down my coffee cup, walked outside prepared for the inevitable fight. But when I got outside I was relieved to see a State Trooper cruiser pulling into the rest stop.
I walked over to him and quickly explained that although I hadn't been assaulted, I felt that I had just been the victim of a hate crime. He looked skeptical and asked me to clarify, but I couldn't find the worlds to explain why being taunted with pseudo-Nazi imagery might qualify as a hate crime. I could only hope that like pornography, the 'I'll know it when I see it' litmus test would apply.
As I was talking to the Statie, the guys in the black shirts filed out of the convenience mart with their food and drinks, saw me talking to the cop, and abruptly turned towards their car. The policeman called them over and after taking one look at their shirts... turned to me with a look devoid of the previous skepticism and told me he would handle it... I should go.
Years later I learned that '88' is a code that white supremacists use as shorthand for 'Heil Hitler' (H being the 8th letter of both the English and German alphabet)... and '14' refers to '14 words', a white nationalist slogan "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White Children". [source]
I've often wondered exactly what happened there at the rest stop after I left.
For many years I assumed from the cop's instant change in attitude after seeing the shirts that he'd either arrested them or taken some other concrete legal action. But more recently I've started to wonder if the prospect of paperwork, a potentially violent confrontation, an overly sensitive complainant, maybe even personal sympathy with the sentiment expressed by the shirts, had caused the cop to simply send them on their way. I'll never know.
Flash forward to the here and now.
I recently noticed that a user who frequents a popular online forum I like uses the following image as his avatar:
I have never seen this exact image anywhere before, and at first I assumed it must be a motorsports logo of some sort. The guy using it seems upstanding, and has never made any comments that could be remotely construed as offensive, much less racist. Yet, the number 88 is just uncommon enough (outside of piano circles, anyway) to stand out and make my 'Spidey-sense' tingle.
So I sent the user with the 88 avatar a private message in what I hoped would be a breezy, chatty, 'by the way' kinda tone and asked, "Hey, interesting avatar you have there... care to share?".
He never responded. Somehow the lack of a response seemed almost as damning as an admission.
So I started searching the web to see if I could find that image... hoping that it would turn out to be related to something innocuous/inoffensive like a sports figure or a race car.
So far I haven't found it anywhere.
So I'm turning to you, dear readers. Without rushing to judgement, I want to know if any of you have seen this image before:
And if so... what it means.
Monday, April 02, 2012
Best Tweet Ever
I don't follow a lot of people on Twitter, and rarely use the service myself, except to let people know when I put up a new post here.
But I occasionally see a tweet that makes me realize exactly what the medium is meant for. Specifically, if properly utilized, Twitter is designed to make coffee shoot out of your nose.
Here's today's culprit:
I've also been reading Matthew Baldwin's excellent blog 'Defective Yeti' since at least since 2004, and it comes as no surprise that his special brand of wit translates quite well to the haiku-like quality of twitter.
Here's a recent post from his blog:
See what I mean?
Don't thank me... I'm a giver!
Sunday, April 01, 2012
Dousing the shrubbery while the house burns down
I find it fascinating that of all the conflicts today which threaten world peace and security, only the Israel-Palestinian conflict seem to absolutely, positively require an immediate resolution... you know, 'before the window of opportunity closes'.
All the other conflicts in the world - old and new - regardless of the number of casualties and/or the impact on regional/global stability, are allowed to fester indefinitely.
What defies logic is where the world places its priorities in terms of which conflicts require immediate diplomancy and/or intervention and which can be left to their own devices.
To illustrate the disconnect, here is a short list of the current conflicts, along with the year the conflict began, the total number of fatalities to date, and the number of fatalities in 2011 (if known):
You don't have to have a degree in International Relations or have any particular expertise in Geopolitical thinking to look at that list and see where the world should be placing its priorities/efforts.
But somehow the United Nations, European Union, United States, Arab League, et al, seem determined to maintain their laser focus on the one conflict that should be left to the belligerents to sort out by themselves.
Call me cynical, but this seems a lot like dousing the shrubbery with a fire hose while the house continues to burn down.